Week 4

April 30, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 43 Comments 

4-2 on the week.

The good news: Ichiro hitting a ton of singles. Adrian Freaking Beltre 6-20 with a home run! A home run! Woo-hoo!

Willie Bloomquist hit .364 for the week (on-base percentage? .364. Slugging percentage? .364.) Not to make too big of a deal about this, but the major league on-base percentage is about .340-.350. If he can hit .364, more power to him. Actually, more power would be nice.

Putz continues to be absolutely lights-out, which is good if you’ve seen Guardado lately, because Eddie’s been looking bad.

The bad news: Guardado’s 4.50 ERA doesn’t do his work this week justice. He’s looking awfully shaky for a proven veteran closer, and giving up a dinger every other time out makes those three-run leads a little more precarious than they should be. Fortunately, using him with three run leads means that it’s hard to blow.

Some other dudes didn’t hit. Pineiro got shelled. Sherill took three appearances to get three outs — and faced only four batters.

What’s it all get us?
The team’s hanging on. 11-15 isn’t so bad with everyone in the AL West stumbling off the line. It’s certainly not something they can’t recover from.

And, in the “it doesn’t feel like a Tuesday” comment of the week — it doesn’t feel like they’re 11-15. They’re still a bizarre team to watch, where any given night it seems like you’re going to see 3-4 players give outstanding performances and play their heart out and another 3-4 make you wince, and you can’t predict which ones are going to show up that night. It’s frustrating but I feel like if Hargrove just once would look around the clubhouse before the game and pick the right lineup, great things would happen.

Coming up: the road trip continues through Minnesota, we face Chicago in Chicago, and then the team’s back hom to face Cleveland.

Also, that you can vote for the All-Stars so soon is ridiculous.

Game 26, Mariners at Orioles

April 30, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 185 Comments 

Caught us all sleeping in, looks like. 10:35? What a dumb time to start a game, time zones or no time zones.

Game 25, Mariners at Orioles

April 29, 2006 · Filed Under Game Threads · 358 Comments 

King Felix v some guy who isn’t King Felix. A phenom against a former top prospect turned guy who spent years being thrown out of organization after organization.

1:35, FSN.

Do we get to see Bloomquist this fine afternoon? Signs point to yes.

Game 24, Orioles at Mariners

April 28, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 153 Comments 

(the real game, obviously, is Mariners at Orioles @ 4:05 — we don’t play 4:05 games, this is a road trip, etc)

Saturday, 4-29-2006

I feel responsible. I know it’s impossible, that my part in this was insignificant, but I can’t escape it. I got out of work early to go catch the game, and there was almost no one on the streets. A guy in a suit sold us two amazing box seats up the third base line, only a couple of rows back, for half face. Half face! Said he was tired of seeing Meche pitch while I was fishing out the money.

Dammit. I hadn’t checked the starters before I headed down. No big deal, though, it’s a beautiful night to see a game, and it beats working, anyway.

I buy some kettle corn and we head in. The usher gives our tickets the twice-over at the gate and on the aisle, but whatever. These are the best tickets I’ve ever had at Safeco, I don’t care if the average per-seat income level took a kidney punch for it to happen. Come focus group me. Please.

Good beer’s $8 a cup now. For $8 a cup I should be able to tell Beltre to just bunt at every pitch for all the good swinging does him.

Being far away, you don’t realize that the game’s not silent on the field. A few rows away, you can hear them talk about where they want to get dinner, or which guys on the other team they played with in the minors, and which ballgirl they find more attractive that night. The ball cracks into gloves as players tossing the ball back and forth in along the baseline.

So there’s the Ceremonial First Pitch, the Safeco Field Welcome Pitch, the Sponsor of the Night First Pitch, and all of them: the banker, the kids, the relief worker, they all throw horrible pitches to random Mariners, way out of the strike zone, short of the plate, and I mention this because the dozen people who came on and off the mound to throw fake first pitches, all of those people threw better first pitches than the professional did when he finally got up there. It was a fastball thrown up and way behind the batter, and Johjima, having reacted instantly to jump out of his stance and watch if sail, seemed to sigh behind all that equipment. Just above the background noise of people chatting happily and yapping into their cell phones there were boos. On the first pitch. These smaller crowds have a lot sharper edge to them, and it suits me.

Four balls in a row and Roberts was on first. Then Meche plunked some guy I’ve never heard of with a curve ball that doesn’t break. He got a strike when Mora watched a 3-0 fastball, hold the fast, came right down the pipe. Mora stepped out of the box and looked back at the dugout with an expression on his face that said “the next time you tell me to take, I’m missing that sign”. Meche puts a fastball low and away for ball four.

Three men on, and only one strike thrown in what, fifteen pitches. The boos rain down under the clear blue sky.

Johjima jogged to the mound for a word with Meche, which I like to imagine was “Boooooooo.” No one got up in the pen. My eight dollar beer had a weird aftertaste and I started to wonder how well the volunteers really clean the tubes and taps.

Chavez came out from the dugout and Bloomquist walked in from second. If he was so scappy and versatile, why wasn’t he pitching? The ump took his time sauntering out to break up their chat. No signal from Chaves, still no bullpen action. What could Meche have possibly said to the coach to convince him not to get someone ready? “Sorry about that, coach, but it turns out knowledge is power and now that I know that I don’t have control or stuff or speed tonight, I’ll be able to figure out Tejeda, no problem.”

Meche dropped something weak a foot ahead of the plate that bounces and Tejeda twitched, as if considering hitting it off the bounce, Ichiro-style. Meche stepped off the mound, took off his hat, wiping sweat off his forehead with his sleeve. The anger bubbled inside me.

“Throw strikes, you moron!” I yelled.

Meche looked at me, turned the ball over in his hand, and stepped on the rubber.

The pitch was a 90-mile-an-hour fastball right down the plate, and Tejeda hit it so hard it sounded like lightning had struck the batboy. The ball hit the center-field scoreboard in an instant, and I’d swear it was still rising.

The boos came in waves, washing over Meche. In the bullpen, I see movement, a jacket being taken off.

Meatball to Gibbons, and Gibbons yanks it into the left-field bleachers, a monster shot. The boos were louder than the announcement of Lopez, louder than the piped noise to accompany scoreboard instructions to do anything but keep booing Meche. Everyone was booing. My throat hurt. Lopez took two balls and doubled past Ibanez. The boos got louder. First pitch to Millar was the third home run of the inning, left-center, banging off the head of Woods, who was warming up. Woods went down. There would be no relief.

I looked around and everyone in the stadium, all twenty thousand and change of us, are yelling at Meche now. The bandwagon fans, the players’ wives, the guys in the press box, the ushers, everyone. There was a little girl, maybe seven, eight, standing on her seat yelling the craziest playground obscenities at Meche in this piercing scream that made my ears feel like they would burst. I heard curses so hazardous they’re normally restricted to members of the armed forces who are trained in their use.

Then we lost the roof. I don’t know what happened, I’ve been watching CNN and they’ve been running experts through on a conveyor belt talking about strutural harmonics and single points of failure, but there was a groan louder than the world heckling Meche and I looked up to see the whole north support structure accordian into itself and the whole thing dropped.

We’ve got a better idea of what happened then. Seattle’s on a fault, we all live like we don’t know it, but just because it’s not named San Andreas and doesn’t have movies made about it doesn’t mean it’s any less dangerous, and it turns out dropping something as heavy as the roof in one spot, right on the glacial silt over a tectonic fault makes things happen. Seattle’s sinking into the sea, and soon Elliot Bay and Lake Washington aren’t going to need locks, and that downtown we could never get right’s going to be under fifty, a hundred feet of salt water.

Seattle’s gone. Bellevue is the new Seattle. Or West Seattle’s the new San Francisco, and Bellevue’s Oakland, and Renton’s San Jose, and the U District’s what — San Rafael? I don’t know what to think. The team’s going on the road indefinately, and I was one of the last people to ever see live baseball in Seattle proper.

I’ll never complain about Gil Meche again.

The day in Mariner

April 27, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 73 Comments 

Good stuff in the Times notebook: Johjima was screwing around with pitch-calling late in the blowout to see if there was anything interesting to be learned. Yeaaaah.

Also, this great Hargrove quote:

Hargrove admitted he had set goals for the start of the season. But he refused to divulge them.

Said Hargrove: “I was told by [the Pacific Institute’s] Lou Tice here in Seattle years ago when I was with Texas, one of the worst things you can do is make your goals public; it only adds pressure.”

An opposing view would be that making your goals known not only encourages you to fufill them, but allows accountability.

In the PI’s notebook, there’s talk of juggling the rotation (but not) and some generic Bloomquist love from Hargrove.


April 27, 2006 · Filed Under Site information · Comments Off on Outage 

In the future, I promise to refrain from praising my host and thus attracting the attention of whatever the digital equivalents of injury spirits are.

Still, better the site than Snelling.

On the new digs and USSM in general

April 26, 2006 · Filed Under Site information · 34 Comments 

The plan was to scrape enough money out of T-shirt sales, Google ads, Amazon affiliate links, a complicated Moose-napping scheme and whatnot to afford to move somewhere swanky that could host USSM without falling down (this costs more than you’d think) while still having a cushion of a couple months hosting bills. At the rate we were accumulating money, it was going to take us another couple months to get there (T-shirt sales went well initially, but the Google/Amazon stuff was barely going to pay to keep the doors open, no matter my ad tinkering).

So enter digital.forest.

They’re local. And for no reason I understand, they’re helping. After much discussion of what we needed and our current problem, they offered us a deal we could not turn down, no matter our meager bankroll. So we moved ahead of plan, which is fine with me, because that plan meant we were playing chicken with the user exprience: while picking up users and growing quickly, the site slowness and server errors would make it harder and harder to come and read. I was worried, to paraphrase Yogi, that we’d soon be so popular that no one would come here any more because it’s too crowded.

We don’t have a Beowulf cluster of supercomputers here at USSM Labs, crunching stats and inventing new defensive measures on its own. But this so far seems much, much better than our old digs. I don’t think the site went down during the game thread tonight (though, in fairness, not everyone’s over here yet due to the way server change information gets spread). That makes me grin stupidly. You have no idea what a pain that was.

We also have a lot more bandwith to play with, which hopefully means we can do some more photos, and we’re still hoping to get some podcasts up so you can listen to us joke around while riding the bus to the Mariners game, or… I don’t really know. We’ll think of something.

We’re still not corporately sponsored, we still aren’t part of an affiliate network that subsidizes our bandwith and hosting, we still don’t charge for subscriptions or premium content. We’re Mariner fans that have been at this now for three years (and change), and that’s all. I have no idea how much time I’ve spent on the site between writing, fending off comment spammers (and censoring dissent!), and trying to keep the old thing from falling over by doing ridiculously stupid tricks. Including research time on stuff like the Attrition War articles, it’s easily a year’s full-time work since we first threw up a post. I’m not alone — Dave and Jason have been here since the start, and Jeff had another Mariner labor of love before this.

Sometimes, it feels like one of the best things I’ve done, and sometimes, if I’m honest, it feels as if it’s been entirely unrewarding. Mostly it feels pretty cool. We’ve been paid back in random generosity through responses to technical issues, or someone picking up on one of us needing a job and dropping us a hint, or someone offering us a spare ticket if we want to see the game, as if we’re a good friend. Readers want to sit and buy us beer before games, and we have events where a hundred people will show up to talk to other fans and the expression on their faces talking to other smart Mariner fans is like they’ve had their first drink from the oasis after crawling around the desert for days with vultures circling. It warms my cold, antisocial heart.

I don’t know what happens from here, or how long something the current state can hold. We’re trying to do something strange that requires a balancing act I didn’t really anticipate: maintaining the level of discussion requires more intervention the larger we get, and now we have registration. But when the PI shut their forums for a while, I was shooting comments as they popped up, like a carnival game. I don’t know that discussions scale.

I worry that someone’s going to give Dave a full-time job to write about baseball or go hunt prospects, and Jeff’s going to be given some huge book deal to roam the earth and write about his crazy adventures (not a novel — they’ll be well-told stories), Jason’s going to open a restaurant, or (and) I’m going to wake up one morning and find the comments overrun and decide to go work on my next book instead of fix it. Losing one of the authors that way would be joyous and a great loss at once. We’ve seen that when we have more time to dedicate to writing articles, the site shines, but that time comes from somewhere, and we do only have so many days in our lives (I have, for instance, ~16,500 days left, and I’m unlikely to die and think “I wish I’d spent more time moderating comments”).

Based on what we were eking out of Google/etc, we’d need to grow another 10-20x for it to be worth it for one of us to quit their day jobs and write full-time (or every regular reader could give us a couple bucks, but I don’t believe there’s a team-oriented site that’s seen a high enough donation % to encourage me to think this is possible at current reader levels — and let’s not discuss that, please, it’s not the point).

I’m also leary of what happens when years of sacrifice by everyone result in one person making money while the others continue to toil, because all kinds of bad things happen. I don’t want to talk about that any more.

For now, though, here’s the short version:
– we have a new host, and by all measures it appears to be awesome
– digital.forest rocks and you should totally go there for your hosting needs
– I’m clearly willing to push their hosting services even though that’s not part of the deal
– we’re going to do some new stuff, like podcasting
– on a purely cash basis, the site’s now about break-even over its history
– the long-term future of the site is, as it has always been, somewhat uncertain
– fewer people visit USSM on a given day than turn out to see the Mariners
– that gap is not that large, and that’s both great and sad

In conclusion, about 1% of our traffic from search engines last month came from people looking for more information on Jennifer Pankratz, Scott Spiezio’s girlfriend (of which he has a tattoo). Thanks to all our readers, regardless of their taste level, for the last three years.

Game 23, White Sox at Mariners

April 26, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 145 Comments 

LHP Buehlre v LHP Washburn. 7:05 FSN.

Bloomquist plays center in the non-platoon platoon… and bats SECOND. It’s that situational hitting he brings to the team.

Other lineup news: Johjima moves ahead of Beltre in the batting order to sixth.

Probably going to be a small game thread, what with the server switch and so many people still pointing in the wrong direction, getting errors and whatnot.

And we’re back up

April 26, 2006 · Filed Under Site information · Comments Off on And we’re back up 

These are the new digs – I moved servers late last night after taking comments down. I was initially dismayed to find out that despite my “comments down, be cool” post a bunch of you decided that being cool meant a lot of random commenting on that post. Then I realized that I could discard the changes and you’d get what you deserved. In the future I’m going to try to skip that initial moment of hesitation.

Comments are re-opened on the other threads. If you note anything odd happening, email us.

Filing a good bug report, for those of you who don’t work in software development:
– Here’s what I did, so you can reproduce the problem
– This is what happened
– This is what I thought would happen

– the 404/permalink issue.
– Future Forty’s missing, tonight

Known remaining issues and estimated fix time:

Known issues that are not our fault
– RSS or links resolving to the old site

Game 22, White Sox at Mariners

April 25, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 202 Comments 

RHP v RHP Joel Pineiro. FSN.

The triumphant return to the lineup of Johjima! Wooooo! He’s still batting behind Beltre! Boooooo!

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